Paper: Remain anonymous, create characters & backup stories: online tools used in Internet crime narratives

Title: Remain anonymous, create characters & backup stories: online tools used in Internet crime narratives
Author(s): Andreas Zingerle
Email: andreas.zingerle (at)

Published at: ICIDS – International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling 2014, Singapore.



This research takes a closer look at online tools that anti-scam activists use when in contact with Internet scammers. These tools are used for defining one’s online character, for progressing the narrative or maintaining anonymity while uncovering the scammer’s identity. The tools are easy to use and, when combined together, they offer powerful methods to narrate stories online. This research draws mostly upon primary sources, like interviews with scambaiters or Internet forums, where scambaiters share their stories and discuss the authenticity of dubious online businesses. The discussed methods and tools are utilized while communicating with scammers. In conclusion, this paper illustrates how these tools can also used in other genres such as digital fiction, investigative journalism and advocacy.


419scam, scambaiting, digital narratives, Internet fiction, Computer mediated communication, online communities.


Download the pdf



1. Advance fee fraud coalition AFF,

2. Channel 4, Secrets of the Scammers (January 2, 2014),

3. Cms, Simo, Post an Neonazis: FP-Politiker unter Verdacht, (March 8, 2011),

4. Cox, J.: Mexico’s drug cartels love Social Media (November 4, 2013),

5. Crates, J.: ATF and D.C. Police Impersonate Rap Label; Arrest 70 in Year Long Guns and Drug Sting (December 19, 2011),

6. Crawford, A.: Computer-generated ‘Sweetie’ catches online predators (November 5, 2013),

7. Deceglie, A., Robertson, K.: Taliban using Facebook to lure Aussie soldier (Sepember 9, 2012),

8. Fukuyama, F.: Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity, pp. 61–67. Free Press, New York (1995)

9. Greenwald, G.: XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’. The Guardian (2013)

10. Hoeller, H.: Threatening fake news. Springerin (2012),

11. Maher, J.: Police create fake Facebook profiles to bust criminals ( September 6, 2012),

12. Pearson, E.: All the World Wide Webs a stage: The performance of identity in online social networks. First Monday14(3) (March 2, 2009),

13. Lambert, J.: Digital Storytelling. Capturing Lives, Creating Community. Digital Diner Press, Berkeley

14. Milestone, K.: Catching rats – Sporting scambaiters turntables on foreign scammers (April 3, 2007),

15. Poulsen, K.: If You Used This Secure Webmail Site, the FBI Has Your Inbox (January 27, 2014),

16. Renov, M. (ed.): Theorizing Documentary. Routledge, New York (1993)

17. Schneier, B.: Liars and outliers: enabling the trust that society needs to thrive. John Wiley & Sons (2012)

18. Stoate, R.: Internet Detectives: Performativity and Policing Authenticity on the Internet (2007),

19. Kelly, H.: Police embrace social media as crime-fighting tool (August 30, 2012),

20. Waddilove, R.: What’s the best free email service? We compare the top 6 providers (March 10, 2014),

21. Waterman, S.: Fictitious femme fatale fooled cybersecurity (July 18, 2010),

22. Wilhelm, A.: Vice leaves metadata in photo of John McAfee, pin-pointing him to a location in Guatemala, Thenextweb Online Insider (December 3, 2012),!zX5oN

23. Zingerle, A.: Towards a characterization of scambaiting techniques. International Journal of Art, Culture and Design Technologies (IJACDT), IGI-Global, doi:10.4018/IJACDT

24. Zingerle, A.: The Art of Trickery: Methods to establish first contact in Internet scams. In: xCoAx Conference, Porto, Portugal (June 26, 2014)